I’ve not played either of the previous editions of Fury of Dracula. But I’ve been eyeing the press on the new 3rd edition by Fantasy Flight Games for months now. In anticipation of its release, I researched the 2nd edition and noticed that despite some complaints about the clunkiness of some of the game mechanics, it was universally thought of as great game. Well, I finally got my demo copy and tee’d it up for the first time. Wow.
Fury is designed for 2-5 players. One person plays Dracula and the others take the roles of one of the four vampire hunters. The hunters can only win by ferreting out Dracula’s trail, cornering, and defeating him before he matures enough vampires to irreversibly spread his evil throughout Europe. As for Dracula, he must stay “alive” long enough to earn 13 influence points to win the game. Simple, right? Riiiigght.
From what I can tell, the main gameplay changes from the previous edition are the additions of dusk and dawn to the timeline, railroad travel, and combat. Unlike the 2nd edition, there are no dice in this edition. Hunters can use an action to obtain rail tickets, which are randomly drawn tokens, instead of having to roll dice. This probably leads to less frustration, as a hunter cannot outright fail to move at all, as could happen in the 2nd edition. So at the very least a hunter knows how far he’ll be able to go before he decides whether to move by railroad on his turn.
The other change appears to be in the combat system. In a previous article, I wrote about another Fantasy Flight game,Lord Of The Rings: Confrontation. I found Fury’s combat system to be very similar, in that players each choose one of their combat cards and flip them simultaneously, comparing the results. Again, I did not play the previous editions of Fury of Dracula, but I can’t imagine a smoother combat system. Dawn and dusk provide an easy way to determine if combat will occur with Dracula at round’s end, and will also determine whether to use the day or night effects of Dracula’s attacks. Dracula is predictably much stronger at night.
In our play-through we had some very tense battles that could have gone either way. As Dracula, I felt like even though I had to randomly draw 5 cards from my combat deck at the start of every battle, I had enough options to hold my own early. Then, getting to draw a card each round to replace the one I just played always provided a sense of hope that I would get a “Fangs” cards to bite those dastardly hunters and send them to the nearest hospital. The icons on the cards were fairly easy to figure out, and as the game went on we were looking less and less at the reference chart in the rules reference.
Let’s talk about the rule books. Fantasy Flight’s more recent releases have included a shorter “learn to play” rule book and a lengthier rules reference book that you can refer back to when questions come up during game play. Having these split up into two different books is helpful because it whittles down what you need to do to get started, versus having to master all the rules up front before you play. Now, I’m not going to sugar coat it – while the box says you can play the game in 2-3 hours, the first time you play this game you better set aside 3-5 hours if you want to get it right. We fumbled our way through the first hour making quite a few mistakes that we caught as we went along. I felt like the last couple of hours we were comfortable enough with most of the rules that we were able to spend our time concentrating more on strategy and trying to win the game.
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but a Fantasy Flight game usually takes a few plays before you can understand and appreciate all of its depth. But if you put the time in, the potential for the most rewarding gaming experiences you’re likely to get are in there. Fury of Dracula does not pretend to be, nor should it be, in my opinion, an easy game to learn. On the spectrum of difficulty, I would call this a moderately advanced game (at least). Its pay off in fun, however, was well worth our time, and I cannot wait to play it again.
Even after just one play-through, I can foresee some different strategies and counter strategies that each side might employ. There is a cat and mouse aspect that requires thinking a few turns ahead. Further, as Dracula, it was fun to leave nasty things, and sometimes even rumors of nasty things, for the hunters to find when they discovered one of the previous locations on my trail. I never quite mastered when it was best to ambush a hunter as opposed to letting him search for my baddies on his next turn. The hunters have a time management issue because the game gets more difficult for them the longer it goes. There is a despair track on the board, and after several turns a token is placed on the track. This can happen three times in a game. Each despair token adds to Dracula’s influence points when he earns them, so the longer the game goes he gets more powerful. This means the hunters constantly have to decide if they want to spend their actions to search for Dracula’s trail or to acquire items to help them fight him and his minions when they finally meet. It seemed to be a delicate balance, because an under-equipped hunter had a tough time defeating my minions in a fight, let alone Dracula himself.
All in all, if you’ve played a prior version of this game, I bet you’ll probably find that Fantasy Flight streamlined enough of the game play to enhance your overall experience without losing or wrecking anything. And if you never played it before, I certainly think you should add this to your gaming bucket list, because, well, it rocks! I am not even a fan of Dracula specifically, or horror, in general. But I love deep strategy, thinking, and fun, and it’s all here. So come. Drink.
Fury of Dracula, Fantasy Flight Games, 2-5 Players, 2-3 hours.